Justine and I have spent the last six weeks traveling in the US, which is why there have been zero postings here. Apologies! I realize that this hasn’t been a very bloggy year for me, but it has been a writey year, and which would you rather have, really?
Let me take you on a slideshow of various things I did while in the States:
Shortly after I first arrived, I was greeted by the sight of my latest publication on bookstore shelves. It’s an essay in a collection called Breakfast on Mars, edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe. Basically, it’s a bunch of YA writers taking on the dreaded essay, many teen’s least favorite form of writing.
My essay, for reasons you might guess, is all about illustrations in books.
If you’re a teacher or librarian, or anyone interested in non-fiction writing, you should check it out. If you ask me, Stern (a former fifth-grade English teacher) and Wolfe have helped fill a huge gap in the world of YA and middle-grade letters.
The next cool thing to happen on my trip was Manhattan Henge, a twice yearly astronomical event in which sundown lines up with the crosstown streets of Manhattan. It looks like this:
What were the ancient peoples who built Manhattan trying to tell us about May 28 and July 12? We may never know.
The third thing I did was have an amazing dinner with respected private citizen Maureen Johnson and her English offsider, Oscar Gingersnort. This was at 11 Madison, and included crazy-ass dishes like this one:
The courses were many and wondrous, and gave us the opportunity to plot
the destruction of all other YA authors what to do at Leaky Con next year.
Nextly, I had a meeting with my excellent publishers about how to market my next book, Afterworlds. The ideas were many and wondrous, and will be revealed in due time. I can’t wait to see what you guys think of this book, which has been three years in the writing. (Because it’s really two books in one.)
Afterworlds will come out late next year, probably on October 28. (This date is a clue to the book’s subject matter! Spin on that one, fannish brains!)
One of my other projects for this trip was to start gathering my “papers,” all the editorial, artistic, and business flotsam that I’ve collected over the last two decades. I’ll be donating them to an as-yet-undetermined institute of higher learning as a
huge tax dodge boon to future scholars.
The first step was to collect exactly one first printing of each of my foreign editions, a project which, even in its opening stages, ate my living room floor:
I also found my very first (incomplete) novel, the least embarrassing page of which looks like this:
And that’s all you will ever see of that novel, unless you travel to the as-yet-undetermined institute of higher learning personally. (It’ll be in the box with the big padlock encrusted with contact poison.)
I just realized that this piece of juvenilia is called Keeps, only one letter away from a somewhat more recent (and less appalling) novel of mine. I wonder what the ancient peoples who made me become a writer were trying to tell us about the letters “-eeps.”
In mid-July, Justine and I also had the great pleasure of teaching at Alpha, a residential sf, fantasy, and horror writing workshop for teenagers (basically, a week-and-a-half-long genre writing camp). The young writers and the staff there were smart, committed, and tremendously stylish, as you can see here:
We had a great time. The awesomeness of the students makes me think we’ll do more teaching of this kind in the future. Watch this space for details.
Also, there was a waffle tower. I haz proof:
From there, I traveled onward to San Diego Comic Con, the premier geekfest of our time. There I had many and wondrous business meetings, which you will see the fruits of soon right here. Also many costumes were witnessed. The best of which was Sharknado Hat:
I also enjoyed this shirtless steampunk dinosaur hunter (based on a Greg Broadmoor comic, I think):
Also witnessed were a cavalcade of capitalism aimed directly at the geek dollar, like these bathrobes:
And these leggings:
So let me get this straight. These are Dr Who-themed leggings in the style of van Gogh. In the words of Tally Youngblood, isn’t that one thing too many? (Nah. It’s probably one thing too few. And, yes, I know the reference from the show.)
After SDCC, Justine and I spent a week in LA, where various meetings were had. Some of these shall be the subject of my next blog post. But no, there is no fresh movie news of consequence. The usual movie options are afoot, but the feet in question are slow moving. Sorry to disappoint you. The wheel of Hollywood turns slowly, but it grinds exceedingly fine. (Not really. It usually grinds pretty crappily. But it does grind onward in the case of Uglies and Leviathan. We shall see.)
Okay, more about the trip in a week or so. I’ll be blogging here more often, because I’m almost done with Afterworlds. Thanks to all of you who’ve stuck around and enlivened the comments section while I’ve been writing.
Caio for now.
I have three appearances at MWF this August. If you’re in Melbourne, now might be a good time to book them. (The first appears to be sold out already.)
NOTE: The MWF brochure says that adults can only come to school events if they are accompanying a child. On the website, however, you can just buy an “Extra Adult” ticket alone. Or, you can just rent a kid. I’m not sure anyone will actually kick you out either way.
Tuesday 27 Aug 2013 at 12.30 pm
Scott Westerfeld grew up surrounded by science and technology. It’s no wonder that his books – including Uglies, Leviathan, Midnighters and Peeps – are shaped by science. Find out what makes his stories tick, and how science can be a novelist’s best friend.
Venue: ACMI Cinema 2
Code: 2603; Age: Year 6-9
Price: $7 (SOLD OUT)
Wednesday 28 Aug 2013 at 10.00 am
THE STEAMPUNK WORLD OF LEVIATHAN
The Leviathan trilogy is set in a steampunk World War I. The books even look like they were published in 1914, when almost all books were illustrated, even books for adults. Tour this extraordinarily rich world with the perfect guide, author Scott Westerfeld.
Venue: Deakin Edge
Code: 1701; Age: Year 5-8
Wednesday 28 Aug 2013 at 12.30 pm
SCIENCE FICTION SCIENCE FACT
Scott Westerfeld and Michael Pryor talk about the inventions and ideas first put forward in fiction, later proved to be fact – or wildly off the mark. Who is the better guide: scientist or novelist? Or does the future rely on both?
Venue: ACMI Cinema 2
Code: 2703; Age: Year 5-8
Click here for more info and to book tickets.
Sunday, July 14
Barnes & Noble Greensburg
5155 Route 30
Greensburg, Pa. 15601
Click here for the store locator.
For those of you not in western PA, here’s another cool Uglies trailer (or really, a title sequence) by Kate Warinsky. It’s not the real thing, even though it looks like it.
Click here for bigger.
Back in the sepia-toned days of early 2005—before Twitter, T-Pain, or even Twilight—I published a book called Uglies. Of course, back in those days, we didn’t call them books. We called them codexes, but it was much the same object: a quantity of papyrus that told a story.
Anyway, back then, book trailers weren’t really a thing. Trailers were for movies (which we called flicker-shows) or sometimes for videogames (which were collectively known as Pong). So Uglies was unleashed into the world with only the whispers of a few score Simon & Schuster sales reps (or bookmongers, as we knew them) to guide its passage.
By the time my next big series, Leviathan, hit bookstores in 2009, trailers were all the rage. So this beautiful example was created, and has since been viewed over half a million times. And yet Uglies remained untrailered.
But the time has come for Uglies to have its own official trailer!
So here it is at last: Uglies, the trailer!
If you know any other unofficial Uglies trailers, please link to them in the comments!
As the guy who wrote Uglies, there are certain kinds of news stories that are forwarded to me by everyone. Hi-tech tattoos, bizarre plastic surgery, stuff that hovers, and of course anything having to do with beauty. So it was no surprise that a recent story about the Miss Korea contest flooded my inbox.
The basic story went like this: Plastic surgery is so prevalent in South Korea that all the contestants in their national beauty contest look freakishly alike. Look, we haz proof!
And yes, I will admit that this is a somewhat chilling image. With a few exceptions, it looks like twenty photos of the same woman dressed and styled a bit differently. And yes, the South Korean appetite for plastic surgery is large. According to this NY Times article, about 20% of women there have had some sort of cosmetic procedure. These are true facts.
But whenever you run into a story like this one, that depends so heavily on a telling photographic image, please remember one simple rule: photographs aren’t real.
Photographs are artifacts of technology, records of specific combinations of light, lens, and angle. Photographs are easily manipulated. Photographs are two-dimensional representations of a 3-D world. Photographs can be more or less accurate, but they are never the whole story.
Take the worst photo ever taken of you and compare it to the best ever taken. Do they look even remotely like the same person?
For that matter, pick up your phone and take a photo of yourself right now. Then walk to a different part of your room and take another. Same place, same hair, same clothes, but often these two photos will look completely different. Not because you photoshopped them or cheated in some other way, but simply because the living, breathing, moving reality of you got sliced into two different tiny moments of time.
The forces of light, shadow, and expression morphed you into two different versions of yourself. Neither of which was real, because photographs aren’t real! Using a single image to reflect a real human being is like describing a lush, complex novel in a sentence. Sometimes you can tell which which book someone’s talking about, but a whole lot goes missing.
Back to our Korean beauty queens. Here are two of them before and after hair, make-up, and photoshopping got involved:
I say again: photographs aren’t real.
Korea doesn’t have some mass convergence of facial phenotypes caused by cosmetic surgery. Maybe they will one day, and maybe in certain social circles there one can spot noticeable similarities. But all we have proof of here is a particular aesthetic of hair, make-up, and photoshoppery associated with a particular beauty contest.
There is no emergency. Return to your homes, Crims.
So whenever you read about a scientific study on beauty that relied on people rating photographs (as I did while writing Uglies), or see a story about how bloated or haggard some poor celebrity has become, or come across at photos that make you feel bad about yourself, just remember . . .
Photographs aren’t real. But you are.
On a COMPLETELY UNRELATED NOTE, here is my new author photo! I haven’t done one in ten years, and given that I just turned fifty, I figured it was time.
In the interest of full disclosure, I offer you the image before and after it was slightly retouched by my sister-in-law, noted visual effects artist Niki Bern, and include my notes to her.
Please do not actually USE that one as my author’s photo.
Instead, go with this version:
Everyone has permission to use this in all media forever. A bigger one can be found here.
Note All of these deals are over. But there’s a cool video below, and info about my Sydney Writers Festival appearance.
If you’ve never tried the audio book of Leviathan, it’s pretty awesome. Alan Cumming does a wonderful job with all the accents and characters.
For the next day or so, you can download the audiobook for only $5.99 from Audible. (Offer only good in the US, I think.)
Click here to make it happen. This offer expires at the end of Monday May 20, US time.
As a reminder, here’s one of my interviews with Alan about the books:
Also, on Monday morning, US time, there will be another low-price offer for another of my books, which I’ll announce right here. I’m not allowed to tell you till then, so come back Monday!
Last night I had a great time at the Aurealis Awards in Sydney. And I’ll be appearing at the Sydney Writer’s Festival next week. On Saturday, May 25, at 11:30AM, I’ll be on a panel with Lauren Beukes, David M. Henley, and James Bradley.
What is speculative fiction, and where do the boundaries start to blur between genres and sub-genres? Have the classic genres changed now that we live in a world where technology has caught up?
This is free and no bookings required. Event details.
Just got back from my 50th birthday vacation, and will resume normal blogging shortly. Thanks for sticking around.
When I was at Adelaide Writers Week last month, I did an extended interview with Sean Williams, who writes the Trouble Twisters series with Garth Nix. The ABC was kind enough to film the talk and put it online.
I talk about Uglies, Leviathan and the history of illustrations, living with another writer, from whence inspiration comes, my other books, and pretty much everything else writerly. It’s a whole hour long!
Hope you enjoy it. Thanks to Adelaide Writers Week for having me, to everyone who asked questions, to the ABC, and to Sean for being a great interviewer.
A few notes:
1) For you USians, note that “the ABC” (Australian Broadcasting Company) is not the same as “ABC” (American Broadcasting Company).
2) At 13:15, I meant to say “Book 2″ instead of “Book 3.”
3) Justine, in the audience, is caught tweeting at 26:45.
4) My pronunciation of “manga” is weird sometimes. I’m from Texas.
5) At 36:00 I briefly confuse Miyake with Miyazaki, because I was wearing the former. #humblebrag
I don’t have a book out this year, so I won’t be on any sort of tour. But I will be traveling around a bit and doing a few live appearances (mostly in Australia) so it makes sense to list everything in one place for easy linkage. And this is that place.
Here are all my known appearances in 2013. I will update this page as things change. Note that Justine will be at many of these things.
I’ll be doing a presentation about Leviathan and the history of illustrated novels on Friday (April 26) at 5:00PM, Event Room One. (And otherwise hanging out, so come say hi.) Conference site.
INTERNET DEAD ZONE
I am turning off my internet for this whole week. Get off my lawn!
May 18, 7PM
I’ll be hosting the ceremony for these yearly awards for Australian fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Hopefully I will be funny. Click here for details.
Sydney Writer’s Festival
Saturday, May 25, 11:30AM
I’ll be on a panel with Lauren Beukes, David M. Henley, and James Bradley. What is speculative fiction, and where do the boundaries start to blur between genres and sub-genres? Have the classic genres changed now that we live in a world where technology has caught up?
This is free and no bookings required. Event details.
Alpha Teen Workshop
I’ll be teaching at this week-long writing seminar for teenagers. Admissions for the workshop are closed, but there will probably be a bookstore appearance in Pittsburgh. Check back here for details about that, or at the Alpha site.
San Diego Comic-Con
I’ll be hanging out here and getting into trouble. They might make me do a panel or two. Check back here for details, or at the con site.
Melbourne Writer’s Festival
I’ll be here and doing stuff. Details not set yet, but you can always check back here or on the festival site.
Brisbane Writers Festival
I’ll be here too! Details following. Festival site
All in all that’s a fair amount of travel, but nothing like when I go on tour. I’m kind of glad to be mostly hanging out at home and writing.
But next year i’m planning to have a book out, so who knows . . .
Two posts ago, a commenter called Hungarian Boy pointed us all to the site of Richard Vass, the artist for the Hungarian covers of the Leviathan series. His original paintings can be found there, and they are all full of bonus awesome.
So here they are:
Go check out the rest of his stuff.
Usually when I blurb a YA book, I post about it here when it’s published. Alas, I was in the depths of non-blogging when Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Summer Prince came out a month ago. So now I’m making up for that, because it is a very good book indeed. Here’s what I said in my blurb:
A nimble, beautiful novel about risking everything for love and art, both otherworldly and magnificently real.
But now that I have some time, and more space than one gets for a blurb, I have a lot more to say.
Summer Prince is set four centuries in the future (roughly the same time frame as Ugies). It’s set mostly in a city-state called Palmares Três, which sits where Rio de Janeiro, Brazil does today. The city is post-scarcity futuristic, but technology is carefully controlled and wealth unequally distributed. It’s also a matriarchy, though one with a peculiar old tradition: every five years, the youngest citizens (under thirty) all vote to elect a Summer King.
Summer King is an honorary position, basically an official rock star of the city. He’s always super charismatic, beautiful, and artistically talented, and has an awesome time being king.
There’s only one drawback: at the end of one year the Summer King is ritually sacrificed.
Here’s something you might not know: The sacred king who reigns for a year and then dies can be found in lots of societies in history. It’s an old pagan tradition. But Johnson uses it to examine our current celebrity culture, in which we build up and tear down famous people, particularly young ones, even as we love them with all our hearts.
Which brings us to June Costas, the protagonist of Summer Prince. She’s eighteen, an artist, and a child of privilege. (Her mother is a high government official; her father was a famous singer who committed suicide.) Thanks to her POV, Summer Prince is all about art. Music, drawings, sculptures, nano-tattoos, large-scale high-tech media manipulations—all of these get deployed by June in her quest to be the best artist in Palmares Três. She’s in rebellion against her mother and the government, still angry at her father, and gloriously egotistical (as one might expect of the self-annointed best artist in Palmares Três).
She’s also gloriously in love with the just-elected Summer King, who’s not only fated to die in a year, but also happens to be in love with June’s best friend, Gil.
Anyway, it’s pretty awesome, and got starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist. If you liked the way that the high tech in Uglies empowered its teen characters to do cool things, you will totally love this book. The art in it feels like real art, and the love, both celebrity-crushing and actual face-to-face connection, totally feels like real love.
You can read the opening here.